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Don’t let your merchandise out of your sight, even when it’s left the warehouse

Until recently, warehouses were seen as separate entities in the overall supply chain and merely storage before products were moved on to its final destination. Now retailers and other businesses have realised that by integrating the warehouse and freight transport into the greater supply chain, they can achieve better inventory management, loss prevention and shrinkage protection.

When it comes to transporting merchandise between warehouses and retail destinations, it is no longer enough to just track the movement of trucks. Companies have to rely on armed escorts and smarter security technology to get freight to its destination. Despite additional security measures, there are still syndicates that outsmart these technologies and additional measures. In addition to merchandise being at risk during transport, these goods are also vulnerable in the warehouses while waiting for collection.

Securing the goods inside and outside the warehouse
The main risks in warehousing and freight transport are theft, loss and the mishandling of goods. While systems can be placed both in the vehicle and at the warehouse exit and entry points, their effectiveness depends on the implementation and control measures.

Inside the warehouse security can be enhanced through the use of ultra-high-definition (UHD or “4K”) IP cameras, which offer better resolution and more detail. Because of the high video resolution of these cameras, fewer of them are required to monitor a larger area, which means fewer cameras to manage, fewer network points and less of a drain on bandwidth and storage. This is largely due to the fact that these cameras are capable of adaptive video streaming, which allows for recording of the video at 4k-resolution, but allows for viewing at resolutions that meet the viewer’s requirements. These cameras have evolved to the point where it is possible to use them for visual monitoring and verification of merchandise. For example, in a warehouse where goods are picked from the shelves and placed in a cage ready for transport collection, an operator can use the camera to visually ascertain whether the correct number of crates or boxes were loaded from the warehouse.

Keep your eyes on the goods
Using these 4K cameras and the associated video recorder management applications it is possible to monitor the merchandise all the way from the warehouse until it reaches its end destination. Each situation is different but, for example, by using closed body trucks the freight is not as exposed to the risk of theft. A closed body truck can be monitored, using a mobile DVR and cameras that can monitor what is going on inside the truck, as well as provide visual verification that the correct goods were loaded into and off the truck. 

Such a mobile video-recording and transmission system also ensures that the load is secure during its journey as a message is sent to the control centre with video verification in the event of the load-bay door being opened. Once the goods have reached their destination, footage from the mobile DVR’s cameras could be used to conduct an external visual inspection to make sure that the load doors are still sealed (this verifies integrity of load).  A main-gate interlocking system could also be implemented whereby access is given to the control-centre operator and the driver of the vehicle vehicle and guard would be recorded as they enter and exit the premises. While this can be time consuming, the goods are tracked along every metre of the journey with visual verification of any intrusion or collusion between parties. 

Where bandwidth availability is an issue, the same technology that is used for cash-in-transit vans could be used.  Such a system is effective in its simplicity as it enables remote monitoring of the vehicle making use of GSM networks with bandwidth requirements as low as 8kpbs.  Using cellular and wireless technology, live video is streamed (and recorded) from vehicles to a remote control centre.

Although warehouse and freight security has long been overlooked, it is important to focus more attention on the integrity of the supply chain at this point. By securing the goods in transport and storage in a simple, visual way, retailers will be able to see the positive impact on security in the elimination of theft, loss and damage of valuable goods.

Smith is an executive at Graphic Image Technologies (GIT), a specialist in mobile/remote CCTV, video analytics, thermal cameras and control room technologies as well as in broadcast video compression and allied technologies.

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